Your Guide to Baby's First Bath

Your Guide to Baby's First Bath

Congratulations on your new arrival! Now, how do you clean this little being? We’ll take you through the details of your baby’s first bath. Read on.
Your baby’s first bath is one of the earliest milestones you’ll meet.

Super exciting—and yes, a little daunting.

So what does the job of getting this little one clean entail? And do they come with an instruction manual?

Don’t worry, mama.

We’re going to help you through every step of the process.

In this article: 📝

  • When should newborns get their first bath?
  • Baby’s first bath in hospital
  • Baby’s first bath at home
  • How do I give my newborn a bath for the first time?

When should newborns get their first bath?

According to both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, it’s ideal to delay your baby’s first bath until 24 hours after their birth.

If you need to bathe your baby sooner than this for cultural reasons, it’s recommended that you wait until six hours after birth.

So why the wait? There are a few reasons!

(And because we’re talking bathtime here, they come in a host of Bs.)

  • Body temperature. Because they’re brand new at regulating their body temperature, they run the risk of getting hypothermia, a condition where you lose body heat too quickly and have a dangerously low body temperature.
  • Blood sugar. While bath time may become a hot favorite in the years to come, at this point in their lives, they have no idea what this whole cleaning process entails—or that it exists. The stress of this first bath can cause their blood sugar to drop and lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
  • Bonding. Getting taken away for a bath can potentially disrupt early bonding between mama and baby. Among other physical and emotional benefits, skin-to-skin bonding exposes baby to good bacteria on your skin, which can help them build up their immune systems.
  • Breastfeeding. Experts recommend breastfeeding your little one within the first hour after giving birth. So if breastfeeding is part of your plan, try to focus on that in the first few hours after birth, rather than a bath.
  • Built-in moisturizer. When your baby is born, they are covered in a white waxy substance called vernix, which protects their delicate newborn skin! It also helps with temperature regulation, prevents moisture loss, and boosts those little immune systems. Washing it off too soon may mean that they won’t get the benefits from this miracle wax.

Baby’s first bath in hospital

Whether your baby’s first bath will be at the hospital or home depends on several factors, ranging from how long the two of you might have to stay in the hospital to the practices of the specific hospital you give birth in.

There’s certainly no one-size-all approach here, as this recent survey tells us.

Ten percent of hospitals, for example, send babies home without a bath.

Ask your hospital ahead of time what their practices are.

And speak to your team about your preferences.

Baby’s first bath at home

Right. Once you’re home, it’s time to get down to business.

Early bathing is separated into two phases.

The first is the sponge bath, and the second is graduation to the bathtub.

Until baby’s umbilical cord falls off, usually within the first two weeks of their lives, it’s best to stick to sponge baths.

Newborns only need to have three baths a week.

More than this, and their skin may dry out.

How do I give my newborn a bath for the first time?

Here’s your step-by-step guide to giving them their first sponge bath—and then how to graduate to the real deal.

Giving your baby their first sponge bath

A sponge bath is a bath minus the soak.

Here’s how to give them one:

  1. Get your supplies ready. You will need:
  • A bowl of lukewarm water.
  • A cloth to wash baby.
  • A baby soap that is mild enough for their delicate skin and is fragrance-free.
  • A towel to dry them.
  1. Lay them on a flat surface. This can be a bed, changing table, or counter next to your bathroom sink—it’s up to you. It’s a good idea to use a safety strap or keep one hand on them at all times.
  2. Keep them warm. Temperature regulation is still a skill they’re mastering, so it’s important to ensure that they don’t get too cold during this bathtime adventure. You can wrap them in a dry towel and uncover only the body parts you need when you need them.
  3. Go face first. Using a damp cloth, gently wipe their face and head. And if you were wondering, those soft spots on their head—called fontanelles—are safe to clean. And don’t forget to wash behind those ears.
  4. Clean the rest of their body. Wet your cloth in the lukewarm water you have prepared and continue washing the rest of their body. Don’t forget the creases!
  5. Finish off with the diaper zone.

Giving your baby their first regular bath

Okay, mama. Graduation time.

Once their umbilical cord has fallen off and healed, it’s time to tackle the tub.

Golden rule here is to keep bathtimes as short as possible in these early months.

And if the very sight of the water tends to set them into a fuss frenzy, it’s okay to go back to sponge baths for a bit.

You go at your speed.

And when you’re both ready, here’s how to do a tub bath:

  1. Get your supplies together. If everything is nearby, you can keep one hand on your baby at all times. You’ll need:
  • A tub! Go for one made from thick plastic that is firm in the center, rather than an inflatable option or bucket, as these can be dangerous. Make sure it has a slip-resistant backing to prevent your little one from sliding around. Also, double-check that there are no bumps or rough edges that might injure your little one. While your baby is so little, steer clear of bath seats. While these may help them sit in an adult bathtub later on, they’re not a good idea right now as they can easily fall over.
  • Soap—again, opt for fragrance-free versions that will be mild on their skin.
  • A cloth to wash them with.
  • A towel to wrap them in when they are all clean.
  1. Fill the tub with two inches of water. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends setting your water heater to no more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid burns.
  2. Pop them in the tub asap. That’s to avoid them getting too cold too quickly. The idea is to put them in feet first, while protecting their head. And keep their head above water at all times.
  3. Keep pouring water over them. This is also to keep them warm.
  4. Gently wash them, starting with their face and hair. Use as little soap as possible. That’s to avoid drying out that delicate skin. If you are washing their hair, cup your hand over their face to avoid water running into their eyes.
  5. Get out and get warm. Snuggle them in a dry towel as soon as possible. Gently pat them dry and apply a baby moisturizer to their skin.

Finally, have fun! Bath times can be a great excuse for some serious quality time together.

And if you feel like chatting through the experience, join us on Peanut.

We don’t have to do this mamahood thing alone.

👶 More from The 411:
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How Many Burp Cloths Do I Need?
10 Life-Changing Mom Hacks From Peanut Mamas
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Newborn Sleep Schedule: Rough Patterns and Timings
Newborn Not Pooping But Passing Gas? What to Know
Newborn Baby Feeding Schedule Ideas
Bringing Your Newborn Baby Home from Hospital
Newborn Chapped Lips: Why It Happens and What to Do
Baby Car Seat Installation: How to Install A Car Seat
How to Hold a Newborn Baby

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